Yesterday I had to make an impossible choice about whether to extend RAF airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq across the border into Syria, or not to support the Governments motion, and therefore maintaining the status quo keeping current anti-Daesh action just to Iraq.

As I explained in the House of Commons, the government’s approach to the crisis in Syria has been far from perfect. You can watch the contribution I made here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/4e6d04ee-df49-4789-a54a-42f2c7be53b2?in=19:44:00&out=19:48:20

As I said, I am angry with ministers because they have turned away from the world when they could have demonstrated to the world what it means to be British. 

I believe they have done not nearly enough to offer aid and assistance to the humanitarian disaster which begun in Syria and is engulfing Europe.  Taking 20,000 refugees by 2020 is not enough. It is much too slow compared to what are our neighbours are doing.

I also believe that if we are to defeat Daesh we must show real commitment to tacking the root causes of radicalisation and extremism.

The biggest recruiting argent for extremism is want. Whether in the back streets of Britain where racism and disadvantage still compound with poor education to create hopelessness, or in the cities of Africa and the Middle East where young people find that powerful people forget them far too quickly, it is this pervasive want that is fertile ground for the blame and resentment that extremists cultivate. We must not turn our backs on the people of Syria. Rather we should offer them refuge now, and our backing tomorrow.

It is clear that the people of Syria need more than our military assistance. They need proper hospitals with trained doctors, proper schools with brilliant teachers and proper courts with impartial judges. 

Most of all the people of Syria need peace and that is why I will be holding the Prime Minister to account on the progress he is making in the Vienna peace talks and ensuring that the UK is fully committed to the reconstruction of Syria when the conflict is ended.

The choice I had to make today was about a tactic in a much larger struggle. There is no easy option or risk-free course of action. Extending the strikes risks civilian casualties, so too does inaction.

I do not believe that these strikes alone will defeat Daesh, but on balance I believe that they may make a small positive contribution. It is on that basis that I decided to support the motion. This support is however conditional on the government honouring the promises they have made regarding peace talks, reconstruction and refugees. 

If necessary I will pursue backbench motions if their plan does not work and I made that clear to the Prime Minister in person in the House of Commons. 

Many constituents wrote to me against the principle of using military air strikes at all. However, in the end, this is not a view I share. My agreement with UK armed forces taking action depends on (amongst other important principles) whether I believe there is reasonable chance of success against stated aims. For this reason we withheld support from the Government when they previously proposed action against the Assad regime. But we backed them in taking action against Daesh in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. This action effectively continues that approach given that Daesh in Iraq are being maintained and supplied by their base in Syria.

There is also a clear request for this approach from the UN, a body that I believe must be supported and respected. And our support has been specifically requested by the French and USA Presidents. 

I agreed with Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary, in his speech yesterday. You can watch his contribution here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=n2GTNK4VsXs

I respect that there are many different views on this issue. I went into the debate undecided, determined to listen to the arguments before deciding how I would vote. My decision is not taken lightly nor can I claim to be totally certain in my vote. But I owe you, and the people of South Wirral my best judgement on this complex decision and that is what I have given today.

I appreciate that you may not agree with my decision, but hope that you now understand the reasons behind it. I am happy to call round to see you to discuss this if you would like me to. Please just let me know on 645 6590.

 

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